Chef Forrest Parker is a visionary who calls upon the culture, history and flavor traditions of South Carolina to create a heritage-infused, yet modern dining experience. He helms the kitchen at the Charleston restaurant, Revival, aptly named given his dedication to restoring heirloom foods to their rightful place among our foodways. His innovative dishes, encyclopedic knowledge of South Carolina’s culinary roots and commitment to championing the work of heritage food producers led to his being named a South Carolina Chef Ambassador in 2016.
Rediscovery and reintroduction drive Parker’s aesthetic. He works with local farmers who cultivate heirloom foods, some of which hearken back to South Carolina’s earliest days. Described as an “agricultural archaeologist,” he is an expert at creatively plating up history and bringing it to flavorful life.
“As a chef, I draw heavily from a culturally rich Lowcountry history,” Parker said. “Our dishes reflect the taste of time and place.”
Parker was born and raised in the Upstate, leaving his hometown of Anderson to attend College of Charleston. Like many students living in the food-centric city, he worked part-time in local restaurants and even became a licensed tour guide to supplement his income. In a fateful move, he accepted a position on the team of legendary James Beard chef Louis Osteen, who was opening a new dining enterprise.
“To be on the opening team of that restaurant as a young culinarian was such a formative experience,” he said. “To work under Louis Osteen changed the course of my life.”
Under the guidance of Osteen, Parker hustled and honed his cooking skills, eventually acquiring an expertise that landed him at the helm of kitchens in Minneapolis and Opryland in Nashville. When his wife’s career brought them back to Charleston, Parker’s culinary interests focused on the emerging local trend toward heirloom foods. Through his time as executive chef at Old Village Post House in Mount Pleasant, he found yet another iconic mentor in Chef Frank Lee, who worked for the restaurant’s parent company and encouraged Parker’s exploration of heirloom products. Soon, Parker was developing dishes that won him rave reviews from discriminating diners and food critics. In 2016, he assumed the lead kitchen role at the Drawing Room at the Vendue Inn. A year later, that restaurant closed to make way for Parker’s concept for Revival, which opened after much anticipation in the summer of 2017.